Rockingham International Super Sportscar Circuit, the venue for Rob Austin’s maiden Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship race win four years ago, hosts the eighth event of the season next weekend, 26th/27th August, where the Handy Motorsport driver is targeting a major podium push.
Determination at the Swindon team is the highest it’s been all season after the hugely frustrating outing at Knockhill in Scotland last weekend where a nightmare qualifying session set the scene for three extremely vexing races for Northgate and Duo-backed Austin.
In the days since the BTCC’s annual trip north of the border, though, Handy Motorsport’s mechanics have uncovered a previously unidentified issue with the No.11 Toyota Avensis which has been traced back to contact from the previous event at Snetterton – explaining a mysterious lack of pace.
Now all attention turns to Rockingham, the first of two back-to-back events in Northamptonshire, where Austin has his sights squarely set on a return to the overall podium with the additional aim of three consistent points scores to get the season moving back in the right direction.
Rockingham, of course, holds extremely happy memories for the Evesham driver as the venue where he achieved his first BTCC race victory back in 2013 at the wheel of his famous ‘Sherman’ Audi A4 on a memorable double podium finishing weekend. At the corresponding fixture the following year, he returned to the top step of the podium with a fabulous win during the event’s final race.
“Knockhill was very unfortunate but since we’ve been back we found a problem with the car which was a result of contact at Snetterton, so that explains a lot”, said Austin, “Due to the tight turnaround between races we’d overlooked something, so we’ve learnt from that. We knew something had to be wrong – not being able to fight through from 23rd on the grid just wasn’t right.
“So, with everything back to how it should be I’m sure we’ll be back to top 10 pace at Rockingham and, obviously, I have a good history there – as does the Toyota actually. There’s only been one meeting this year where we haven’t had a car with the potential for podiums, and that was Knockhill because of the issue we found. I’m sure we’ll be competitive at Rockingham, we’re all very focused.”
As a result of last weekend’s trials and tribulations, Austin frustratingly slipped out of the overall top 10 in the BTCC driver standings by just a single point behind two-time champion Jason Plato. In the equally hotly contested Independents Trophy, though, the Worcestershire racer maintained fourth.
In the team standings, Handy Motorsport still retains a top 10 place – only three points shy of ninth position – while in the Independents Team Trophy the squad holds fifth spot, only 14 points outside the top four.
So far in 2017, Austin and Handy have secured one overall pole position and one outright podium while in the Independents Trophy the tally reads one victory, three second place finishes and four other top three results.
Free practice for the BTCC competitors at Rockingham will take place at 09.25 and 12.00 on Saturday, 26th August, with qualifying following at 15.30. On Sunday, 27th August, round 22 is set to begin at around 11.35, round 23 will commence at approximately 13.55 and round 24 will conclude the weekend’s track action from 16.40.
Qualifying and all three races will be streamed live online at www.itv.com/btcc with the raceday action also screened live through free-to-air television on ITV4.
2017 BTCC Drivers Championship Standings:
11th Rob Austin, 110pts
2017 Independents Trophy Standings:
4th Rob Austin, 205pts
2017 HiQ Teams Championship Standings:
10th Handy Motorsport, 110pts
2017 Independents Team Trophy Standings:
5th Handy Motorsport, 210pts